Monday, May 25, 2009


An era ended on May 15 in Paget, Bermuda. The last surviving member of the hugely popular and groundbreaking Calypso group "The Talbot Brothers" died at the age of 94. This Sunday I shall remember them with some of their music and commentary on TRADITIONS.

In the picture above Roy Talbot is on the far right playing his trademark instrument (which he built from meat packing crates---think the origins of steel drums---oil cans) named "Bermudavarius" and had only one string. He was also the resounding bass singer of the group.

The brothers---though a cousin was also in the group---grew up in Tuckertown but their family was moved to another section of Bermuda to allow for the development of Tuckertown into very posh residential community that now has homes owned by Mayor Bloomberg, Ross Perot among others. Like so many people we have played on TRADITIONS their roots started in Church music and led them to such great heights. They appeared in worldwide venues including TV in the US including appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

A few personal recollections now of the group. My wife and I had the delight of finding the group while visiting Bermuda in the late 1950s. They along with artists like Erskine Zuill were exciting discoveries to us---and an aside here--Bermuda at that time was totally segregated and that also included hotels in which Jewish visitors were not allowed. Elbow Beach comes to mind. Castle Harbour was one of the few that did permit Jews. People like the Talbots had it harder since they, just as in the U S, were precluded from spending nights in the venues in which they performed. That could be an entire different topic---the evolvement of Bermuda.

We found The Talbot Brothers, as I said. Found them with such wonderful pieces as "Yellow Bird", "Trimmingham and Trott", "Back To Back--Belly to Belly"and many more--including "Jane Jane Jane" ( more about that later). One had to reserve quite some time in advance to get into their performances---as one did for people like Zuill and Hubert Smith. The music was rhythmic and topical in that it covered political situations in Bermuda and the U S (Atomic Nightmare---I'm Going to run like a son of a gun).

A word here about some of the topical material---which you will hear a bit of on Sunday. Atomic Nightmare is fairly self explanatory. Trimmingham and Trott is a wonderful piece about a retail establishment in the WW2 years that catered to U S Navy personnel with some feelings of taking advantage. I am not certain if it was recorded by The Talbot Brothers (though they performed it) but it was recorded by Hubert Smith. Back To Back (Belly to Belly) was not their composition and had been covered by many---including some 5 or so versions by Harry Belafonte---I thought theirs the best. It was composed by Lord Intruder-----aka Winston O'Connor. You have to love those names.

The Talbot Brothers consisted of Roy, Archie, Austin, Bryan, Ross, and cousin Cromwell Mandres and used a different instrument line-up than the more typical Trinidadian calypso instrumentation---
Fast forward now to the 1970s. The Talbot Brothers had achieved world wide fame appearing on major TV shows in NY and touring the world. Being, not only, the toast of Bermuda but, given the segregation there in the earlier years much demanded at private parties at the very wealthy. Not only appearing their but being totally trusted entertainers ---as they say--what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So it was with them and the society types that invited--hired--them.

The personal reminiscences---the later 1970s. My wife and I once again went to Bermuda and hoped to see the Talbots. It seemed sad---an Irish troupe of performers which included dancers, singers, and an alleged comic were headlining and the Talbot Brothers were relegated to being an opening act and playing dance music afterwards. At one point, my wife asked if they might be able to perform "Jane Jane Jane" and they said that the brother who was the lead on that had died---but if she knew the words to please join them on the stage for it. She did. A memorable and nostalgic (now) moment.

Fame may well be fleeting but sincerity and loyalty are not. On the way back to the airport I overheard one of the passengers on the bus say to his wife or fiance---"..hey, was this not great---just like NY". Sad!! You were supposed to open yourself to the great local talent and not hope you were home with the touring Irish Troupe of performers doing what was homogenized entertainment.

More on Sunday on TRADITIONS when we shall hear a bit of their music---and more if I can receive music from the author---Roy Talbot's nephew --of material I do not have. He is the author of a new book celebrating and commemorating his family-"Bermuda's Famous Talbot Brothers---A Celebration in Pictures and Song". It includes 2 CDs.

For more information on that go to If you want to know about Bermuda and segregation in the earlier years let me know and I will discuss it.

Might as well close with a nice shot of Bermuda- on second thought let us close with the Talbots since Bermuda is not the Bermuda that made them who they were anymore and would, probably, not appreciate what they have let slip away from them:

Roy Talbot---long and productive life---you and your era will be missed.